Ms. Bär, how do you actually become the Federal Government Commissioner for Digitization?
Dorothee Bear: More than 20 years ago, before my political career, I started to get involved in digitization. When I was elected to the Bundestag, the only way to get involved politically on these issues was to sit on the subcommittee on new media. It was not until many years later that I became State Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure because the digital sector was also integrated into the transport sector. When it came to the post of Federal Government Commissioner for Digitization, I was deliberately chosen by my party chairman because of my many years of knowledge.
You actually studied political science …
Bear: In addition to the purely technical side, which I am also very interested in, digitization is also the need to shape the future with all its socio-cultural effects. How do we want to live, learn, work or move around in the future? I want to help shape this future in our country and thus ensure that digitalization improves life. My first contact with digital topics came through my brother, who is a computer scientist and infected me with his enthusiasm for technology from childhood. I don’t mean his LAN parties that lasted for days, but above all the scientific treatises on digital topics that he lectured and that fascinated me from an early age.
What specific skills did you have to acquire for this position?
Bear: You need a basic technical understanding and the passion to familiarize yourself with digital topics and also with the technical details. Since digitization is always advancing, you will never stop learning. I see my job as coordinating and managing the various ministries from the Chancellery. For this, the willingness to change necessary for the implementation of digital projects must be created. You need a feeling for what is important and how it is best implemented. So it’s about informing, explaining and convincing, I am trying to do this, to give an example, within the framework of the Blockchain Round Table I organized, at which representatives from almost all departments sit.
Is there a tool or application that you particularly enjoy? And why?
Bear: I appreciate all the tools that enable me to communicate directly, uncomplicated and close to the citizen, and everything that makes life a lot easier. Otherwise, I like gadgets of all kinds and am a gamification junkie.
What does a typical working day look like in your life?
Bear: No day is like the other. There are some fixed dates, especially during session weeks or when there is a cabinet meeting. Otherwise, the working day is characterized by meetings with politicians, representatives from business and the media or with citizens. Right now, in times of the Corona crisis, I am implementing many of these tasks with the help of digital communication tools.
Nothing works today without digitization, we have not only noticed this since the Corona crisis. But even more so now. Keyword home office and home schooling: what do you take away from this time?
Bear: Suddenly, a lot is possible in the field of digitization that was long considered unthinkable. Unfortunately, it became very painful that the companies that had already made progress in digitization were much better able to get through the crisis than the companies that had not yet started the digital transformation. Some companies or authorities were not at all or only insufficiently prepared for the topic of home office. And in the field of digital education, too, it is now taking its toll that there are no uniform standards for home schooling and that the school landscape is more of a patchwork quilt in this regard. It turns out that it would have been better for the children and parents if we had already achieved nationwide uniform minimum standards for this form of teaching.
The modern digital world not only needs technology, but also talent – keyword: IT skills shortage. Women in particular are still in short supply in STEM professions. Why do you think that is the case?
Bear: One of the reasons is that women fail to bring these issues closer to women as young girls. I am firmly convinced that it would be good to teach children digital skills right through to learning a programming language in primary school. This would mean that these skills, which are so essential for the future, would become a normal part of our children’s education and thus the future choice of occupations, especially for young women with a view to the MINT professions, would look different than today.
What do you find exciting about IT and digitization?
Bear: Digitization is not just a technical revolution, it is also a social one. It raises questions of social participation as well as legal and economic questions. Completely new horizons emerge. We now have the chance to help shape this age. We should seize this opportunity and not look to China or the USA like the rabbit on the snake.
What advice or career tip do you have for the next generation – whether male or female?
Bear: Don’t listen to other people’s talk. Only take advice from those you would ask. Dare to do something, be brave, sometimes go ways that others may not go with you, let yourself be inspired and inspire others.